Family History Friday – The History of your House Part 2

Smawthorne Lane, Castleford, circa 1900s from

We promised that we’d return to the subject of house history, as it’s such a huge topic. Here’s part 2 of our guide to researching the history of your home.

Ferrybridge Road, Castleford, in the late 1800s

With older buildings it’s the well-built ones that survive and these will almost certainly have belonged to someone who was reasonably prosperous. Poor quality housing tends not to last, so the fact that a building survives can be a clue to age and status.

Is your house near the church? Up until the late 1700’s the nearer the house was the more affluent it’s owner was – the manor house was nearly always opposite or close by. Others would then build their houses nearby to reflect their wealth and social status.

The Shepherd’s Rest public house, Wakefield

Finding out what your building was previously use for (a pub, shop, farm building, chapel?) and the occupations of those who previously lived in it can lead you to records which will tell you more. It’s not always obvious to work this out as houses can often be used both as a home and as a workplace. For example purpose built parsonages only begin to appear in the nineteenth century. Many schoolteachers ran a school from their house. Blacksmiths or dressmakers may equally have used their house as a workplace.

Dating your house can be difficult so here are a few websites that may help: lists all listed buildings and includes many pictures. has loads of information on architectural and building history. has lots of information about different historical periods in relation to building styles.

For different types of buildings and architectural features try includes a useful dating tool that can help establish the date of a building.

Pontefract Allsorts

Pontefract Allsorts is a week-long online celebration of Pontefract’s unique historic links with liquorice, with plenty of activities online for all the family to enjoy from the 5-11 July.

Wakefield food festivals are a challenge for a library as, much like rhubarb, liquorice does not feature in many books. So here is a selection of other sweet treats, all of which can be dipped into on our RBDigital ebook library.


Miss Hope and Mr Greenwood offer Sweets Made Simple, a how to guide to make you lick your lips. Black Forest Fudge for me please! Great British Sweets by Adele Nozedar looks at the rich history of classic sweets including liquorice. Find some luscious and decadent recipes in Chocolate by Kirsten Tibballs.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris is a celebration of kindness, courage and chocolate. If you haven’t already discovered her delicious and sensuous writing, you are in for a treat. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel offers love, cooking and magic. Finally, enjoy a treat on the lighter side with The Chocolate Collection from Tricia Ashley.

So many books about chocolate! The obvious one for children is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Ronald Dahl but for a change, try Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen, a fantastically funny love letter to a favourite treat. In Stink and the Super Galactic Jawbreaker, by Megan McDonald, the young hero discovers that a letter of complaint leads to free a result, he gets a tiny bit carried away. Lastly, Sweet Pizza by G.R. Gemin. Joe loves his Italian heritage and the cafe his great-great grandfather opened in the 1920s. But Mum wants to sell up. Can Joe’s brilliant ideas bring the community together and save the cafe? Warm and funny.

Head over to RBDigital for a taste of these and lots more tasty books.

Family History Friday: Parish Records

Saint Peter’s Church, Woolley from

If you want to trace your ancestors back further than 1837, when civil registration began, then you’ll need to use parish registers.

These record baptisms, not births, marriages and burials, not deaths. Unfortunately not all church records survive and those that do can be patchy in the information they provide.


Whilst the format of Church of England records was standardised (though not to begin with) their availability online can vary. The best sites to check are:

For Nonconformist records have a look at:


For Scotland, those records that do survive of the Established Church of Scotland and of the Catholic Church in Scotland can be found at:
Further records are gradually being added.


For Ireland the National Library of Ireland has the surviving Catholic records freely available online at

Indexes to these registers are also available on the main genealogical websites such as Ancestry and FindMyPast.

For other denominations, which includes the Church of Ireland, which was the Established Church to 1870 and the Presbyterian churches there are some transcriptions available on

But be aware that this site is subscription only and not all records have been transcribed. Digitisation of the surviving records of the Church of Ireland is ongoing but again, be aware that many records were lost in the Public Record Office fire in Dublin in 1922.


RFH Poster-page-0

The Romans have gone all digital and are back to celebrate Castleford’s rich Roman heritage from Monday 22 – Sunday 28 June.

Find out more, including the special library activity pack:

We have added some digital books and audiobooks to our online libraries, RBdigital and BorrowBox and here’s some titles to look out for.


No Roman reading list would be complete without the wonderful Mary Beard and we have her authoritative and readable book SPQR available. Take a tour round Roman Britain guided with warmth and wit by historian and archaeologist Guy de la Bedoyere or for a modern tour Charlotte Higgins in Under Another Sky looks at the remnants of Rome in Britain and what they and the idea of Rome meant to those who came after.


Ancient Rome with its splendour and power has always fascinated novelists. Try Robert Harris for an epic look at Roman politics (and trace the parallels with today) in his Cicero trilogy. If you want the clash of armour and the might of the legions, look out for Ben Kane’s thrilling Eagles at War series. We have the entertaining scandal of I Claudius as a BBC Radio full cast dramatization starring Derek Jacobi and a personal favourite, Lindsey Davis’ Falco both as ebooks and as a collection of 5 BBC Radio dramatizations with Anton Lesser as Marcus Didius Falco.

fight for freedom

For older children, Simon Scarrow’s Gladiator series will bring Rome to life, or try the Time Travel Diaries by Caroline Lawrence. Horrible Histories is there of course, with Ruthless Romans and Rotten Romans- now what could he have called a third book? Younger children will love Gary Northcote’s Julius Zebra stories and laugh at Romans on the Rampage by Jeremy Strong.

Share your Roman adventures with #RomeFromHome

Family History Friday: Civil Registration Records

Are you  struggling to find an ancestor through the civil registration records (i.e. birth, marriage and death records created after 1837)?

Sometimes the reason why you can’t find that elusive ancestor is because their name has been mistakenly transcribed wrongly. It’s a good idea to try other websites that hold that same information but may have been transcribed by someone else. Some of these websites are subscription only though.

For England and Wales try:

Births and deaths 1837-2007; Marriages 1837-2005

Births 1837-2008; Marriages 1837-2005; Deaths 1837-2007

Births 1837-2006; Marriages 1837-2005; Deaths 1837-2007

Births, marriages and deaths 1837-1992, but be aware that these records are incomplete.

Births,  marriages and deaths 1837-2005

Births 1837-1919; deaths 1837-1957 and 1984- to present. You can also order certificates or PDF downloads from this site for a fee.

For Scotland you can also visit Scotland;s People for births, marriages and deaths 1855-2019. The indexes are free to search but digitised images require payment and are subject to data protection time limits.

For Ireland and Northern Ireland, though be aware that not all indexes are comprehensive, try:

Births 1864-1958; marriages 1845 (Civil/ Protestant) or 1864 ( including Roman Catholic) to 1958; deaths 1864-1958

Civil registration indexes 1845-1958

Births and deaths 1864-1958; marriages 1845/ 1864-1958

Births 1864-1919; marriages 1845/1864-1944; deaths 1864-1969. All records have free digitised images except for deaths 1864-1877 which are to be added. Also note that there are no Northern Ireland records on this site after 1922.

We hope that the above might help you in your search.

Join the Silly Squad!


It’s time to get silly! The Summer Reading Challenge is back and this year Wakefield Libraries are inviting children to join the Silly Squad. The challenge may have moved online but it’s as much fun as ever. Just visit and sign up, pick an avatar and enjoy the games, activities and chat and unlock badges as you take part.

What can you read? Anything! There are lots of ideas and suggestions on the Silly Squad website. You can visit our digital library where we have added a great selection of new ebooks and audiobooks to borrow. You can listen to our weekly storytime on Facebook or visit authors’ webpages to hear them reading their stories-ideas on our daily Wakefield Libraries Recommends page. Maybe there is a book at home you have not read yet or you would like to read your favourite book again?

Just have fun reading and writing  and share your silly adventures with us @WFLibraries #SillySquad2020

The Summer Reading Challenge is produced by The Reading Agency. Artwork Illustrations © Laura Ellen Anderson 2020


Family History Friday – The History of your House

Ferrybridge Road, Castleford, in the late 1800s

Have you been watching “A House Through Time”? Has it inspired you to want to know more about the history of your house? Or the history of a house your ancestor lived in?

It’s a huge topic, with lots of places and websites that might help. In fact we may revisit this topic in the future because there’s so much, but here are a few pointers to get you started.

Houses being built by the council in the 1950s for sale on Sylvester Avenue, Normanton

1. The first thing to establish is – when was your house built? You may already have the answer in documents that you have about the house, such as the mortgage survey. If you’re really lucky there may even be a date somewhere on the outside of your house.

But if you don’t know, there are ways online to narrow it down. Use census records, trade directories and particularly maps. When your house first appears on these records that will give you a date by which it will have been built.

For censuses –
For trade directories  –
For maps  – (This has Ordnance Survey maps from 1842). For earlier maps try

Renovation work taking place at Highfield House, Horbury,

2. Has your house changed in appearance? Track down old photographs- there are loads of websites and Facebook groups that share photographs online. Do a search on Google for the area you’re interested in and you may be lucky and find a website that includes a photo of your house. For the Wakefield district, don’t forget our own website of photographs-

Aerial photographs may also help you. Whilst they won’t focus on particular houses, they will give you a better sense of the area around your house and how it has changed through time.

Don’t forget postcards – Raphael Tuck and Sons published a huge number of postcards in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

 A black and white photograph of the reading room at Castleford library in 1956

3. Want to know if anything momentous happened in your house? Newspapers are a wonderful source of information. includes newspapers going back to the 1700s. Search by street name.

Were the people in your house directly affected by World War One? matches those who died to where they lived.

Further episodes of ” A House Through Time ” will no doubt make use of other resources that help to tell the story of the history of their house. Keep a note of what they use as these same resources will probably help you as well.

Family History Friday: Tracking down your elusive ancestors

A photo showing the Taylor family from Twixt Aire and Calder

Not managing to find that elusive ancestor on any websites? Here are a few suggestions that might help you in your search:

Don’t be too rigid when you’re putting in your search terms. If you’re too specific you may miss the records you’re looking for. Try expanding your search by, for example, looking for a wider range of years. Or use initials rather than their full name.

Remember that dates, and particularly spellings of names, were not standardised historically. This means, from a practical point of view, that you need to be flexible with dates and spellings.

Different websites have different ways of dealing with this in their search terms, so check each website to find out what they do. Most use an asterisk as a wildcard to allow for variations in spelling eg looking for SHEPH*RD  would find SHEPHARD, SHEPHERD and SHEPHEARD.

Also bear in mind when your ancestor’s birthday was, as that could affect the age they were on the document that you’re looking at. They may not have yet had their birthday at the time the document was created.

Always be logical when calculating dates for example compare the age of the mother with the birth year of the child. Could she realistically have given birth at the age she was then?

And finally, if you’ve got conflicting evidence, just remember a fairly crucial point – no-one can be in two different places at the same time.

Next week we will be looking at how to research the history of your house.

Family History Friday

A black and white photograph showing a family portrait in a back yard in Featherstone from

When researching your family tree, you’ll soon find that there are certain key websites that you’ll keep going back to as they are so useful. Here are some of the ones that we’d recommend, though be aware that not all of these are free to view.

The two main ones are Ancestry and Find My Past. Both of these are free to view in our branches. While our branches are closed you can gain free access from home by logging in to your library account and following the link on the left hand side of the screen.

Another option is MyHeritage, though you would have to pay to access this.

FamilySearch is another “go to” site as the resources on it are vast. And it’s free as well.

For helpful research guides the best website is probably The National Archives. It’s always worth looking at their catalogue, Discovery, to see what is available.

TheGenealogist, which is a subscription only site, could be useful to you if your ancestors came from either England or Wales.

For Scottish ancestors then ScotlandsPeople is the website you should explore but be aware that you can only view documents on a pay as you go basis.

For Irish ancestors there are two websites, both free, that might help you. These are The National Archives of Ireland Genealogy and Irish Genealogy

For Northern Irish ancestors the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland will give you free access to some of their records. Roots Ireland, a subscription only site, might also be worth considering.

Next Friday we will have some tips for tracking down those elusive ancestors you are struggling to track down.

Researching your World War 2 Ancestors Part 2

Here are further suggestions that will help you gain specific information about your World War Two ancestor.

If your ancestor was in the military service, service records for those in the British Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force are still held by the Ministry of Defence. You can order them through Veterans UK. A guide on how to order records is available and this also gives details of the costs involved. A word of caution  – this service may not be currently available. Please check their website first.

The Forces War Records website includes “Home Guard Officer Lists 1939 – 45” and a “Home Guard Auxiliary Units Roll World War Two”.

The National Archives also have material on the Home Guard.
If your ancestor was a prisoner of war Forces War Records has “British and Imperial Prisoners of War held by Japan WW2 ” and “British and Imperial Prisoners of War held in Italy WW2 “.

Ancestry has “UK,  British Prisoners of War 1939-1945” and “UK,  Allied Prisoners of War 1939-1945”. These give information about servicemen imprisoned in German and Japanese camps.

Find My Past also has “Prisoners of War 1715-1945”.

If your World War Two ancestor came from the Wakefield district then please send your completed research to Wakefield Libraries so that it can be included on our We Will Remember Them website ( lib.admin@

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